Katherine O’Dell is an actress, and her daughter Norah tells her story. From the Irish theatre of the 1940s to London’s West End and the early days of Hollywood, famous Katherine’s life is exciting and often turbulent. But no-one could predict that she would shoot someone. Why did this happen?
Norah notes: “I was twenty-eight and the time of the assault. I struggled on for the next year or more, but there came a day when I could not make it in to work. I was writing a book, I said. And then that became true. I wrote, not one, but many books. But I never wrote the one I needed to write, the one that was shouting out to be written, the story of my mother and Boyd O’Neill’s wound”.
From the Booker winning author of The Gathering and The Green Road, all of the things Anne Enright is known for are present here. There is family drama, mothers and daughters, snappy lines and a story that seizes you and doesn’t let you go.
Norah begins to feel able to tell her mother’s story after Katherine’s death, prompted in part by irritation with how the story is being co-opted by others. But how can she get to the truth? Can she tell her own story too?
My colleague read this first, and rightly said this was a must-read for fans of fiction about theatre. The dry wit reminded me of another all-time great theatre book, Penelope Fitzgerald’s At Freddie’s.